Anticipation was running high for the first public dam releases on the newly constructed Holtwood Whitewater Park this fall, however the final round of testing in early October revealed more work was needed before opening the park. Specifically, strong currents scoured rocks from the bottom of the river, changing the two surf waves in a way that impacted their performance and possibly their safety. Testing and modifications are ongoing, and we'll announce a schedule of releases early next year. The good news is that the waves are going to be incredible.
The park was negotiated by American Whitewater and a dedicated team of local and regional paddlers and affiliate clubs as mitigation for reduced flows and demolition of natural whitewater features in the Susquehanna River. The impacts were associated with the expansion of the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project which aimed to increase hydropower generation and greatly improve passage of American Shad. The dam owner agreed to build two whitewater features and provide 264 hours of water releases anually as mitigation for the impacts.
The park is impressive from on the water and on shore. 1000cfs of water roars down a 40+ foot (unrunnable) slide that was once a fish ladder and creates a large and extremely fast wave when it hits a pool at the base of the slide. This wave has a break at the top and breaking shoulders, and dishes out huge bounces and freestyle tricks. The pool below the first wave funnels into a second wave that is designed to be a powerful hole for loops and other hole-oriented freestyle moves. Finally, at just the right flows a third wave forms at the outflow of the second pool that can offer less advanced paddlers an opportunity to learn front surfing and freestyle basics.
We appreciate the patience of the paddling community on this project. Its important for many reasons to get the design and construction just right on the park before scheduling releases and opening it for public enjoyment. The team is very close to wrapping up the contruction, and is looking forward to a grand opening in 2015.